Last year, New York's law that curtailed the use of cash bail for many criminal charges became a flashpoint in the race for governor and a debate over public safety in the state.
But eight weeks into the new legislative session in Albany this year, the bail law has barely been a blip on the radar even as Gov. Kathy Hochul seeks yet another change to the measure.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Wednesday told reporters the bail law did not come up in her private conversation with New York City Mayor Eric Adams when he was in Albany to discuss the state budget.
"We haven't had those conversations," Stewart-Cousins said. "We've had conversations about as we're all concerned about public safety, stemming gun violence, making sure the resources are where they need to be. Conversations specifically in terms of bail reform is not a conversation I've had with him."
Adams has been a major proponent of making bail law changes. In recent weeks, he has focused also on contending with recidivism and has called on lawmakers to address a 2019 law that changed evidence discovery procedures.
Hochul has proposed ending the "least restrictive" standard under the law in a bid she has framed around giving judges clarity and less contradictions when it comes to setting cash bail for serious criminal charges.
Hochul is also backing more funding for district attorneys to implement the discovery law changes, which they have argued has created a bureaucratic headache in order to process evidence on a much faster basis.
New York lawmakers have backed a series of criminal justice law changes in recent years with an eye toward creating a fairer system. The bail law in particular was meant to ensure poorer defendants are not waiting for extending periods of time in jail for a case to be adjudicated.
The law has become a major political issue as crime has risen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Hochul's 2022 Republican opponent Lee Zeldin focused heavily on the issue during the campaign last year.
But in the weeks since Hochul unveiled her $227 billion budget plan with the bail change included, the measure has made for little public discussion. Lawmakers held a hearing earlier this month to discuss crime statistics, finding an inconclusive picture over how the bail law has affected crime.
Both Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie have not embraced changes to the law and instead have called for overarching policies to deal with crime, such as funding anti-violence efforts and curtailing the spread of illegal guns. And both Democratic leaders have acknowledged crime has continued to be a top concern for voters, a consistent thread found in every public poll on the issue over the last year.
A group of state lawmakers this week called for measures to address gun violence programs in communities and schools in New York.
"We're not only looking at the aftermath, we're looking at the root causes as well," New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Executive Director Rebecca Fischer said. "I think there's been a lot of discussion and rhetoric in New York, in New York state, about what is causing this crisis and what's going to fix it so immediately."
Last year, lawmakers and Hochul in the final weeks before the state budget was due began closed-door negotiations over bail law changes. Ultimately, lawmakers agreed to expanding circumstances in which bail could be required, such as for certain gun crimes.
The budget is not due to pass for another six weeks.